Graduate Program

If you are accepted into our MS program, it is possible to transition into the PhD program. To make this transition, you must complete the following steps within 2.5 calendar years of beginning the MS program. Only after all steps are completed will you become a PhD candidate, so keep that in mind when planning when to file for the MS graduation. (That is, if you graduate before you have completed these steps, you may run into a situation where you cannot be hired by the department because you are no longer an MS student and not yet a PhD student.)

  1. You must pass the qualifying exam at the PhD level.
  2. Choose a PhD advisor, and with the approval and support of the advisor arrange a prospective PhD committee composed of a chair (the advisor) and at least four committee members.
  3. Pass with a grade of B- or better five graduate courses deemed appropriate for PhD preparation by your prospective PhD committee. These will typically be 500 level or higher, but not including Physics 691R, 696R, 697R, or 699R. At least two of the classes must be from the "core courses" list of the subdiscipline. (For the list of core courses, please see item 2 under the PhD requirements of the General Degree Requirements page.) You must submit this list of classes to the prospective PhD committee prior to the PhD candidacy exam.
  4. Successfully defend your Masters Thesis with your MS committee.
  5. Pass a PhD candidacy exam with a PhD candidacy exam committee. This committee is comprised of 3 members of your prospective PhD committee (not including your advisor), plus 2 other members of the graduate faculty that are appointed by the graduate committee.

Steps 4 and 5 are typically combined into a single meeting where the masters defense serves as the PhD candidacy exam, with committees that overlap as much as possible.

Your PhD candidacy exam committee may accept your successfully-defended Masters thesis as satisfying the PhD prospectus requirement, or they may require a separate PhD prospectus defense. In either case, you must submit a written PhD prospectus, approved by your committee, after being admitted to candidacy.

To be considered for department financial support (tuition and stipend) after making this transition, you must notify the chair of the Department Graduate Committee by February 15 of your second year that you intend to transition.